The many moods of Lemony Snicket — Oct 22, 2012
Photos by Martin E. Klimek for USA TODAY
The writer grew up in the Bay Area and considers many of its more celebrated writers, such as Dave Eggers and Amy Tan, his friends.
Handler is a writer, but he’s also a heck of an accordian player who “once shared the stage in London with Peter Gabriel. He was super nice. It was one of the many moments where I wished I could go back in time to my high school self … there were years in my life where he was a titan to me.”
Handler has his bad days writing, but they’re never that bad. That said, “The only hard thing is you write alone and you can’t fake it like a million people in an office who maybe come to work one day hung over and they just get through the day. You can’t do that when you’re alone, writing.”
Handler stands in the doorway of the 105-year-old Victorian home in San Francisco that he shares with his wife and 8-year-old son Otto, who currently is obsessed with the Tintin series of adventures. “It’s entirely pre-sexual. It’s a guy on a train shooting people but there’s no one saying ‘Oh Tintin, you’re so brave!’ It’s astonishing.”
Handler is a book junkie, says his pal and celebrated writer Dave Eggers. “He reads everything, has read everything,” he says.
Handler and his wife love to entertain, often inviting a dozen friends over to talk and sip cocktails. “It’s kind of retro because people don’t do that as much anymore,” he says. “But it’s not fetishized retro as in, I wish I were in an episode of Mad Men.”
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bluebirdsofhappyness said: Now I want to read the Series of Unfortunate Events. :3 lol I never did when I was younger, though I enjoyed the movie.
Ughhh that movie. Don’t get me started on the movie. It’s a cute little thing, sure, but it totally 100% does not capture the essence or tone of the books at all. They had Daniel Handler write (I believe) three different scripts. And they didn’t like them. So they fired him. From his own movie. Personally I just think the only way ASOUE could’ve been a truly successful book-to-movie adaptation is if it were animated in a gothic-style type thing. Jim Carrey is not Olaf. Olaf is ridiculous, yes. He keeps a trunk of costumes to parade around in all the time. He wrote a play called The Most Handsome Man in the Entire World for him to star in, and then wrote a sequel: Why I Believe I’ve Become Even More Handsome! But he’s really, really scary too. He tries to marry Violet for her money by staging a play and having a real Justice of the Peace officiate the in-play marriage, forcing Violet to go along with this by locking her baby sister in a cage from the top of a tower. He murders a few of their guardians, he frames someone else for his crimes, he even attempts to murder the Baudelaires. So, if you haven’t read the books, it’s an interesting movie. But if you have, it’s a failure, probably one of the worst. They crammed three novels into one movie and made it “funny.” A Series of Unfortunate Events is wittier than I think it is funny. You should try the books!
I really, really would. I’ll be honest and say I haven’t reread them since I was younger, so I can’t exactly give you the POV of someone older reading them, but every time I see a line or a page from the series, I’m reminded how brilliant I think Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket) is. I admire A Series of Unfortunate Events so much because you’ve get three heroes, each with different skills, that you get to value and root for. You can miss out on that with a lot of other series because there’s one person whose story is being told—here you have the classic orphan tale, but you’ve got it with three incredibly bright kids who find that they have to rely on each other instead of the adults in their lives.
Really I don’t think the books are for children, though they’re marketed that way. It’s a very isolated coming of age tale about—as someone else so eloquently put it—ethical relativism. The Unfortunate Events books take place in a much smaller timespan than most coming-of-age tales, but they’re still forced to do so much growing up and they’re faced with tougher questions and choices. The series is dark. I mean, just in the first book, there was an underage forced marriage plot! Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are shuffled around between inept adults, hoping that each time they’re going to have someone to trust, but they never do. They led a charmed life and then it was ripped from them and they could only rely on each other. In a lot of other children’s books I’ve read, the charmed life happened when they were too young to remember it, or the adventure starts on the premise of something new and good and hopeful (though they battle difficulties and troubles along the way). Here we start at the worst possible event: your parents have died, you have nothing, and then someone is trying to take what little you have left. I don’t even think the Baudelaire’s care about their money that much (which I also admire), Olaf is just determined to get it in a dark and sinister way.
Here’s what I take away from ASOUE: sometimes good people have to do bad things in order to survive or even to protect more people. And that’s confusing. There’s no clear black-and-white good-and-evil, and Violet and Klaus and Sunny struggle with that because they’re still just kids. And then these books probably have one of my favorite morals ever: those who seek out knowledge, who are always trying to learn more by reading or inventing or attempting new skills: those people are going to be the good people.
On top of all that, I’ve never found anyone that writes like Handler. People have tried (I’m looking at you, Trenton Stewart with your Mysterious Benedict Society) but they haven’t matched it. Personally Daniel Handler’s type of humor is my favorite, an of over-the-top ridiculousness with an undercut of sarcasm, but I think he also hits the nail on the head with heart and hope, too.
So: TL;DR: yes. Read them. I love them, and I hope you do too, and if you don’t, at least they’re pretty simple books that are fast to get through. I don’t think you’ll regret it.
Also this post does a good summary of why I love Violet so much: http://basic-eight.tumblr.com/tagged/violet-baudelaire
And also, if you like literary references, these books are chalk full of them. That’s what also makes them my favorite.
ALSO I’M SORRY I COULDN’T SUM THIS UP.
Lemony SnicketDaniel Handler
Root beer floats, from The Beatrice Letters.